Watch CBSN Live

Coffee Table Books -- Anchors' Choice

The first coffee table book was published in 1960. It was called "This is the American Earth," and included photos by Ansel Adams, among others.

Today, these big books are big sellers -- particularly around the holidays. Although there are no formal statistics on their sales, they practically carpet book stores this time of year.

Travel and nature photography are always popular topics for coffee table books. This year, history and comic books are trendy themes.

On The Early Show Wednesday, co-anchors Harry Smith, Russ Mitchell and Julie Chen showed viewers the ones they like best.


Many fashion designers are marking big anniversaries this year. Ralph Lauren is celebrating his 40th anniversary in the industry, Valentino his 45th. Velention's weighs in at around 40 pounds and costs $4,000 for the art edition, which includes signed and numbered sketches by the Italian designer, who will retire next year. Only 100 were printed, so each is part of a truly limited edition. The regular edition is $1,000. But, for a book that someone can actually afford AND carry ...

"Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People"
by Hamish Bowles
384 pages, $75
This book profiles the homes and gardens of 30 celebrities, such as Manolo Blahnik, Donna Karan, Madonna and more. As you might guess, these folks aren't decorating with items from discount stores! This is pure, enjoyable fantasy. Karan's New York City apartment is 7000 square-feet and takes up the entire floor of a building on Central Park West. It took her years to find it -- she had a hard time finding something that made her happy.


There are always lots of amazing choices in this category -- photographs that expose you to places you can hardly believe exist.

by Sebastiao Salgado
336 pages, $59.99
The Brazilian-born Salgado was an economist before he became a professional photographer. He focuses on distressed people in poor or war-torn countries all over the world, though Africa has always been a particular focus. He has been shooting in Africa for over 30 years, and this book is an amazing collection of people, animals and landscapes -- all in black and white. The text in the book is provided by Mozambique novelist Mia Couto, who describes the consequences of the continent's economic, social and environmental crises.

"Life: America the Beautiful: A Photographic Journey, Coast to Coast - and Beyond"
by editors of Life magazine
Leave it to the Missouri native to choose the most reasonably priced book of all! The book highlights the 100 places Life editors deem "the most beautiful, most important, most intriguing" in the country. The list includes natural and man-made sites. Every state except Idaho is represented. Photos inside incdlue the Grand Tetons (Wyoming), the French Quarter of New Orleans, and New York State's Adirondack mountains.

Wonders of the World
edited by Benoit Nacci and Patrice Milleron
200 photographs, $50
As Julie said, this book is kind of like "The Amazing Race," captured and on your coffee table! It has photos of well-known spots such as the Great Wall of China and the Egyptian pyramids, as well as off-the-beaten-track sights. Photos include Egyptian carvings from a temple wall, an ancient Roman arena that's located in the French countryside, a Polish castle from the 1400s, and Stonehenge, England.


History-based coffee table books have garnered a lot of attention this year. And according to one book sales / publishing industry expert, books in the history category are the biggest sellers of the season. Selections include an illustrated version of David McCullough's book "1776," Ken Burns' "The War," "NASA's First Fifty Years in Space," and more.

Modern Art 1900-1945
by Gabriele Crepaldi
Flipping through this book is like visiting the best art museum ever -- all the "greatest hits" you expect are covered, and then some! The book covers American and European art and features the painters who changed the landscape of art history, as well as an overview of other disciplines.

Another big trend this year: lots of comic book-themed coffee table books. Of course, sports-related books are always big sellers. Hot titles this year include "Knockout: The Art of Boxing" and a Sports Illustrated book all about basketball.

Knockout, The Art of Boxing
By Ken Regan
Ken Regan is the boxing photographer. He covered Muhammad Ali's first title fight, and spent the next four decades chronicling the biggest and greatest fights of the time. The book includes photos of fighters, trainers, promoters, and other celebrities associated with the sport. Regan wrote the text in this book, too, and if you're a boxing fan, it's truly amazing. It has lots of information and stories. Photos include:
* Cassius Clay (aka Ali) wins over Liston in Miami, 1964
* Ali vs Foreman; Ziare; 1974
* Joe Frazier training; 1971; Ali said Joe was the "roughest and toughest" guy he ever fought
* Mike Tyson and Don King; Vegas; 1986